global economics: the over-simplified version

The simple version of global economics hit me in Dante Coffee Shop.

As I was in Dante one afternoon after teaching my summer class, I realized something. It was so simple yet made an almost profound statement about the way we choose to live our lives economically.

The exchange rate here in Taiwan is about $32NT to $1US. The implications of this are awesome if you are one who prefers to pay as little as possible for everything, especially food. Here, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner out might cost me $3US or less a meal; but when you’re using Taiwan currency, each meal might cost around $30NT-$50NT.

When I buy 蛋饼 (a famous Taiwanese food comparable to an egg pancake burrito – 蛋 meaning egg and 饼 meaning cake) from a street vendor or breakfast shop, I’m not thinking that it only costs me $1US. When I spend $100NT, I’m not thinking that I onlyspend $3US. My $100NT is ONE HUNDRED NTD, and I value every dollar of it! (There arenot cents in NTD [New Taiwan Dollar]. It makes things much simpler.)

Sitting in Dante, then, sipping an iced coffee for which I paid $65NT, I look around me and find the Taiwanese version of Starbucks. Of coffee shop culture. And it’s way too expensive for me (太貴 – too expensive)!

Even though doing the math means my iced coffee is the same price I would pay for it in States, where I would also spend twice as much and sit in a coffee shop forhours, this iced coffee just costs to much money. It was $65NT, and I can totally gobuy coffee or 奶茶(milk tea) for half that price somewhere on the street or at 7-11, which is what I do most of the time,except on the rare occasion, such as this afternoon, when I decide to spend way to much on coffee to sit in a a coffee shop for a couple of hours and write this blog.

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